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3 Hidden Details Inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is known for being the ‘Sistine of the South’ for good reason – it’s filled with elaborate stained glass, tall marble-like columns and a presence that takes your breath away. One of the most important features of the Cathedral is the church’s 34 murals.

The murals, which are actually oil on canvas paintings transferred to the church walls, date back to 1912. The murals have gone through a lot over the years, but with proper preservation and care, they’re still clear to see.

Tours of the Cathedral and its murals take place almost daily. To make the most out of mural viewing, pay close attention to the following features.

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Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

Symbolism

Each mural has an important saint or figure, but instead of focusing only on the facial features, take a closer look at the details. Many saints are holding items like palm leaves, keys, and body parts – symbolizing different themes, deaths, and biblical stories. Not sure what a particular item symbolizes? Ask a Cathedral tour guide – they’re knowledgeable about mural facts and trivia.

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Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

The headless saint

Saint Dennis of France is headless – but you can see him holding his head in his hands. People didn’t like the way he was preaching, so they cut off his head. Rumor has it that he picked it up and kept walking!

Cathedral2

Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

Saint Lucy holding a plate of…

Saint Lucy is depicted with her eyes shut – because she is holding her eyeballs on a plate. Saint Lucy was a martyr, and her eyeballs were gouged out prior to her execution.

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Photo by Casey Jones of Visit Savannah

The Native American

Saint Isaac Jogues was the first North American martyr. He was ministering to the Native Americans in New York and southern Canada, and was captured by the Mohawk tribe and killed. It’s not often that you’ll see a person dressed in Native American garments in a Catholic church, which is what makes this mural especially interesting.

Tours of the Cathedral are free, but donations for upkeep and art preservation are most welcomed. To see more of the Cathedral and its murals, check out the video below:

 

 

LA1Larissa Allen is Visit Savannah’s social media coordinator. She received her BA in English and Professional Communications from Armstrong State University. Larissa is a Savannah native, and is addicted to watermelon juice from the Forsyth Farmers’ Market.

 

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10 Responses to “3 Hidden Details Inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist”

  1. Bruce Bowmaster says:

    I believe it was so beautiful and breath taking. I was amazed .

  2. Sylvia says:

    Larissa, Your Visit Savannah posts are excellent. Keep up the good work!

  3. Linda Dokey says:

    Thank you! I noticed the 2 (Indian And the head in the hands in a video Fr. Pablo put on but St. Lucy I didn’t and she is my Patron Saint. GOD BLESS

  4. Billie Cotter harris says:

    Heaven on earth!! Awesome!

  5. Billie Cotter harris says:

    HEAVEN

  6. C.j.Blanda says:

    I am so moved, l never thought of Savannah as having this beautiful memorial of Faith, be it Roman Catholic or Anglican / Episcopal, always thought they were a simple Bible State, so glad to see other wise….l will be coming down to look at houses now…

  7. Shirley Segrest says:

    Watching the video of the cathedral is a worship experience. Thank you for giving us a touch of God’s presence!

  8. Tom Cuddy says:

    We’ve been to the church a bunch of times. We usually attend the noon mass on Saturday when we are there. The church is just stunning, and the mass is simple but satisfying to the soul. We’ll be there next month for our anniversary. God bless the church and all who serve there.

  9. Bryan Irwin says:

    Beautiful Church. I just edited a wedding video that was shot there last month. 500 people were in attendance! I haven’t been there myself yet but felt like I had after the editing. However, now I really want to go in, take the tour and check out the murals. Thanks for the article.

  10. Marilyn Ryan says:

    The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was a very special place for me, I guess!!?? I was baptized, had first communion, confirmed, graduated from grammar school and high school, was married there, and had our first child baptized in that Cathedral! It has been redone, but it still maintains some of the old look, thank goodness.

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